Education and Work
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Kevin graduated with Great Distinction (summa cum laude) from Shimer College with a degree in Natural Science (and a concentration in Mathematics.) Kevin works as a consultant for the Newport Group in Chicago, focusing on the design and financing of executive benefits, retiree medical benefits, and financing various corporate reserves. (Shimer College was recently acquired by North Central College which continues to promote the Shimer Great Books program.)
Kevin and his wife Deborah Socha began being involved in chess together in 1992 when he did a simul for a Montessori School where Deborah was president of the school's board. They became a "chess family" when their son Robert asked them to created a chess club at his elementary school. They worked together teaching and organizing scholastic teams and running chess camps for ten years after that.
Kevin and Deborah also enjoy their dogs (Tucker and Rocky), walks, reading and exercising.
- FIDE Master
- FIDE Trainer
- USCF National Master
- USCF Life Master (norm system)
- USCF Original Life Master
- USCF Professional Coach (Level V): one of five in the country, the only person who is also a FIDE trainer
- USCF Senior TD
- Author: Midwest Masters Inv 1986 and U.S. Masters Inv 1987
- 2007 IL Chess Coaches Association "Coach of the Year"
- Camp Director OleChess
For information on the USCF Certified Chess Coach program, click here.
Early Chess Career
The "Caveman" Nickname
Kevin learned to play chess at age 11 when he received a chess set for his birthday. Way back then there wasn't much scholastic chess, and living in a rural area, Kevin primarily played his high school aged brothers, and a very strong high school student who lived about a quarter of a mile away. Kevin lost over 100 consecutive games to this student (at Rook+ odds!) before winning a single game. Kevin likes to share this story with his students so that they can better understand that everyone has struggles to overcome in becoming a good chess player - or at achieving any other important goal in life.
Kevin played in his first rated tournament in December of 1971 - just as Fischer's exploits were being broadcast around the world. But Kevin's orginal interest was not fueled by the Fischer boom. He simply enjoyed chess, baseball, and football.
Growing up in a rural area, no Internet, and too far from Chicago to get to tournaments easily meant that Kevin was self-taught primarily from classic chess books. He also found that to play often, he needed to organize his own chess club and tournaments. So throughout high school he was involved in organizing and running two "local" (within 10 miles) chess clubs.
Kevin earned his National Master Title in 1982.
Among Kevin's first students (while in college in the late 1970's and early 1980's) was Adam Lief, who eventually cracked 2400. Kevin took a sabattical from coaching from 1988 - 1994, which ended when his son asked him to coach a club at his elementary school.
The nickname Caveman and the concept of caveman chess was thrust upon Kevin in 1981. At the time he was an Expert, working to become a National Master. Kevin had just finished playing fellow Expert Jack Young at a tournament at the College of Lake County - a college that held a number of chess tournaments in the 1970's through 1990's.
Jack and Kevin were doing a post-mortem analysis, and FIDE Master Albert Chow walked up and was watching. The game was fairly tactical in nature, and Jack and Kevin were both willing to explore ideas that were "off-the beaten path".
After a few minutes of watching, FM Chow shook his head and said to Kevin "You play stoneage chess. You play like a caveman!" Of course, Kevin's friends immediately ran with this and the nickname "Caveman" was born.
The nickname was reaffirmed the next year, during the first Midwest Masters tournament. Although not a master, Kevin was invited to the tournament by organizer Helen Warren to have a chance to learn and improve. Ranked 29 out of 30, after four rounds, Kevin had a score of 3-1 with no losses. At that moment he was rated over 2200, and while he knew he would play the last game, had to momentarily consider whether to play the last game.
National Master Chuck Kramer commented "You have to play. YOU'RE the Caveman." Chuck was correct, of course.
Letters of Recommendation
Kevin's most active coaching period for schools was from the fall of 1994 through the spring of 2007.
During that time he coached teams from Franklin Elementary, Emerson Middle School, and Maine South High School.
During these 13 years, Kevin coached 12 State Championship teams, 9 State Champion individuals, 3 National Championship Teams, and 7 National Championship top 5 finishes.
From late 1995 through late 1998, one team coached by Kevin won 23 consecutive IL/IN regional tournaments.
During 2002 Maine South High School went 27-1 in team matches.
From Grandmaster Gregory Kaidanov:
To whom it may concern:
I am writing this letter in support of an application by Kevin Bachler. I taught with Kevin in about dozen chess camps and got to know him very well.
First of all, Kevin has an incredible knowledge of chess classics. Using games of players of the past he not only teaches kids important chess principles, but he also widens their knowledge of chess history.
Kevin is very well organized in both how is running chess camps and how he is teaching chess. Not only he demonstrates the important chess games, he also emphasizes all important points student can learn from a given game. On couple of occasions when I was present on his lectures the black board was filled with important chess concepts. It made learning very easy.
Finally, Kevin has great social skills. He is always polite, respectful toward his students and has a great sense of humor. One his quality I always admire is to be in the room with dozens of kids and being able not only to get their attention for significant amount of time, but also teach kids of different levels.
From Grandmaster Gregory Serper:
To whom it may concern,
I've known Kevin for almost 15 years and therefore had numerous opportunities to watch him working with kids. What impressed me the most is that unlike many chess coaches Kevin builds a solid, long lasting chess foundation for his students based on the classical heritage. He always makes the learning process exciting and therefore I never seen his students bored. His talent as a chess teacher coupled with his playing strength (he is a Master himself), make him an ideal chess coach.
From Ken Wallach, USCF Original Life Master:
Kevin is the best chess coach in Illinois bar none. I strongly support him as a chess coach.
When I first met Kevin back in 1978, he was in charge of the College of Lake County Chess Club. Kevin was nearly a master even back then and every year he organized large round robin rated club championships. Kevin helped all the club members improve at chess through his lively and entertaining post mortems as well as his weekly tournament bulletins that contained club games he annotated himself as well as special educational opening and endgame articles. Kevin provided a great example for others to follow. He demonstrated his flexibility and love of learning by purposely playing his opponents strongest openings against them. Kevin's informal chess coaching helped me earn my National Master title.
I coached chess with Kevin for over 5 years starting in 1994. Kevin is a superbly organized chess instructor that the kids loved. One innovative thing he did was create a balanced chess curriculum by categorizing chess instructional material into increasing levels of difficulty that he labeled as different kinds of dinosaurs. The students that worked their way up to Kevin's highest level, Tyrannous Rex, eventually made up the 1997 K-5 National Championship Chess team.
Kevin has a passion for chess that rubs off on his students. Over the 34 years that I have known Kevin, whether I was playing chess against him or coaching chess with him, I have learned a tremendous amount because of him. Students who study with him will learn a tremendous amount of chess from him too.
From NTD Michael Zacate:
Kevin’s high school coaching career produced one of the most astounding sequences in the over 40 years of Illinois high school team competition. Team chess in Illinois consists of 8 players playing 8 players from another team. This requires not only having a few highly talented players, but coaching the lesser players to become consistent, competent players in order to achieve team success. From 2000-2001 season through the 2006-2007 season, Kevin coached (or as an assistant coach the first two seasons) his team won three championships and three runner-ups (or tied for runner-up) with over 100 teams in the competition each year for the state title.
To be an outstanding coach, more than the ability to provide solid instruction is needed. The achievements of Kevin’s high school teams are proof of that skill. An outstanding coach also has the respect and confidence of their players. One of the ways of determining how well a coach measures up in these qualities and ability to build camaraderie among his team members, is by the consistency of team membership. In Kevin’s case not only did players stay in the program for the remainder of the high school career once a part of the team, many of the players were coached by him for many years in the lower grades. For before coaching a high school team, Kevin coached lower grade players to outstanding success in the Illinois Chess Association grade school competitions. Not all of the lower grade players coached by Kevin went to the high school at which Kevin coached. Unfortunately, many of those attending other schools did not stay with chess as they did not find coaches with Kevin’s talent for instruction and camaraderie.
President Illinois Chess Coaches Association (1988-1994, 1996-2010)
Chairperson, Illinois High School Association Advisory Committee on Chess (1974-2011)
USCF National Tournament Director
Recipient, USCF Lifetime Career Achievement
Recipient, IHSA Distinquished Service Award
President, Illinois Chess Association (1978-1980)
Tournament Directing and Chess Camp Experience
Kevin began directing tournaments in 1971 at age 14. He has organized tournaments with over 300 players and directed tournaments with over 100 players. He has also directed round robins and smaller inviational tournaments.
Kevin began being involved with chess camps in 1996, at WisChess held annually at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and took over as camp director in 2000. The camp was the largest and strongest overnight camp in the country until its final year in 2004.
Kevin then started working with St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota on the OleChess Camp. The camp is a national caliber camp using titled players to teach different levels of classes designed for different types of students.